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Health, Science, Environment

St. Louis Could Reimpose Restrictions If Coronavirus Continues to Spread

Flannery's Pub manager Jordan Viponel-Gilbert wears a mask as she lights candles at the Washington Avenue watering hole on June 19, 2020.
File Photo| Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio
Flannery's Pub manager Jordan Viponel-Gilbert wears a mask as she lights candles at the Washington Avenue watering hole on June 19.

Officials in St. Louis say that if the coronavirus keeps spreading in the region, they may have to order businesses to close, limit how many people gather or reinstate other restrictions used to contain the virus earlier this year.

The number of people who have tested positive in the St. Louis region is up 28% since last week, with nearly 500 new cases reported every day. Officials are worried that as more people are infected, hospitals will become overwhelmed.

“If we continue on this current path that we’re on, it is likely we’ll need to reinstate some of those mitigation strategies we implemented early on in our response,” said Dr. Fred Echols, acting director of the St. Louis Department of Health.

Related: White House: St. Louis, 10 Other Cities Must Take ‘Aggressive’ Action In Coronavirus Fight

St. Louis officials planned to roll back capacity limits in large venues this week, but they put those plans on hold when new cases began to rise and hospitals began to fill with COVID-19 patients.

In St. Louis County, officials last week canceled youth sports, saying games and practices were linked to many positive cases.

Determining where those people have been could guide where St. Louis officials put restrictions in place, Echols said.

Echols did not identify where the latest outbreaks in St. Louis were taking place, but city officials have mentioned they investigated several nightclubs over the weekend and found people unmasked and crowded together.

See the latest coronavirus numbers

City officials are meeting almost every day to discuss whether to reinstate restrictions such as stay-at-home orders, Mayor Lyda Krewson said during a Facebook Live video on Monday.

But Krewson worries about how a new round of restrictions would affect the region's workers, who have already lost pay, especially as federal coronavirus-related relief checks are set to expire later this week.

“We don’t want to have to pull back on reopening,” the mayor said. “When we pull back on reopening, we affect small businesses, but most importantly we affect workers, and when you can’t go to work, you can’t provide for your family.”

The public needs follow doctors’ advice so people can remain at work, she said.

“We’re trying very hard to persuade you ... to wear masks and socially distance so we don’t have to pull back any further,” Krewson said.

While the region’s hospitals are now admitting more than 30 patients who need treatment for COVID-19 each day, there’s no magic number to indicate when governments should start to close down again, said Dr. Alex Garza, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

“There’s no absolute red line that if you cross it, you do this,” he said. “You have to take it into context within everything we do in the community.”

For example, children in certain districts may be going back to school soon. Restrictions on other businesses will need to take the needs of teachers and parents into account, he said.

“We do want to refrain from recommending going back to those very dramatic policies such as shelter in place, but it takes participation from the community as well,” Garza said.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @petit_smudge

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